Texas county worker accused of stealing $1.2 million worth of fajitas

By Ben Hooper  |  Oct. 16, 2017 at 9:19 AM
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Oct. 16 (UPI) -- Prosecutors in a Texas county said a Juvenile Justice Department employee is accused of stealing $1.2 million worth of fajitas over nine years.

The Cameron County District Attorney's Office said Gilberto Escaramilla, who works for the county's Juvenile Justice Department, took the day off for a medical appointment Aug. 7 and a driver from the department's meat vendor, Labatt Food Service in Harlingen, called the kitchen to inform workers of an 800-pound fajita delivery.

A confused kitchen worker explained to the driver that the department doesn't serve fajitas, leading the equally baffled driver to tell her he had been delivering fajitas to Juvenile Justice for nine years.

"If it wasn't so serious, you'd think it was a Saturday Night Live skit. But this is the real thing," District Attorney Luis V. Saenz told the Brownsville Herald.

"The receiver of the call rushes off to the supervisor and conveys to her the discussion that had been had, and that breaks the case," Saenz said. "When Mr. Escaramilla reports to work the next day, he is confronted with the discussion and he admits he had been stealing fajitas for nine years."

Saenz said Escaramilla was fired Aug. 8 and arrested Aug. 9 when the district attorney's Office Special Investigations Unit executed a search warrant on his home and found packets of fajitas in his refrigerator.

Investigators said Escaramilla had stolen a total $1,251,578 worth of fajitas.

"He would literally, on the day he ordered them, deliver them to customers he had already lined up," Saenz said. "We've been able to uncover two of his purchasers, and they are cooperating with the investigation."

Escaramilla was released on bond and was arrested again Tuesday on a charge of first-degree felony theft.

Saenz said the Juvenile Justice Department has been consistently exceeding its line item budget for years, but officials failed to uncover the fajita scheme.

"Up and down the chain of authority, people were signing off on these things," Saenz said. "It's upsetting because the auditor gets a detailed invoice where it states the breakdown of what's delivered, so they should've seen it."

Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Rose Gomez of the Cameron County Juvenile Justice Department said the department is cooperating fully with the investigation and is reviewing its procedures to prevent future incidents.

A former county employee in Arkansas pleaded guilty to fraud in September after using a government credit card for personal purchases, including a tuxedo for her dog.

Kristi Lyn Goss, 44, who was arrested in October 2016 on allegations of using a Garland County government credit card to make nearly $200,000 worth of personal purchases while working as an administrative assistant to Judge Rick Davis, pleaded guilty in Garland County Court to six fraudulent uses of the card.

Investigators said Goss' purchases included personal bill payments, nearly $1,000 worth of Arkansas Razorbacks tickets, a diamond bracelet, clothing, school lunches for her children, pet insurance and a tuxedo for her pug.

Goss is scheduled to be sentenced in November.

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